Therapy in a new light


Monash University has played a key role in the multi-million dollar expansion of the Australian Synchrotron.

Monash academics helped convince Victorian and Australian funding bodies to support the creation of a medical imaging beam line at the facility, which is adjacent to the University's Clayton campus.

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Edwina Cornish said the new Australian Synchrotron - Imaging Therapy Beamline would have wide-ranging applications, with particular utility in the early detection and treatment of cancer.

"Monash University staff worked with fellow scientists, clinicians, other universities, the CSIRO and medical research institutes across the nation to establish a compelling case to build this facility," Professor Cornish said.

A $14.7 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Victorian Government was announced by Premier John Brumby in April 2009. It will enable a major upgrade of the imaging and therapy beamline to become the most advanced and comprehensive medical beamline in the world.

Professor Ian Smith, Director of Monash University Research Platforms, said until now the Synchrotron had been primarily a research facility.

"This announcement means scientists across the country can take the first steps towards using synchrotron light for human imaging and therapy," Professor Smith said.

"This facility will enable Australian and international researchers to undertake worldfirst research studies and provide potentially ground-breaking solutions to many of the diseases affecting our community."

The Monash Institute of Medical Research (MIMR) is one of the first institutions to benefit from the expansion. It is working with the Australian Synchrotron and the Cancer Council of Victoria on a project that could see cancer patients withstand radiotherapy treatment at much higher radiation levels and suffer fewer side effects.

"Upgrading the beamline at the Australian Synchrotron means our researchers can now base their research here in Melbourne," MIMR director Professor Bryan Williams said. Approximately 50 per cent of cancer patients receive radiotherapy.

The major limitation of current radiotherapy treatment is devising ways to administer enough radiation to kill the tumour without destroying the surrounding, healthy tissue.